Europe’s Top Cities- #9

              It’s crazy to think a bunch of people can spend 200 years building something, only to construct it at such a ridiculous angle. How hard can it be to build a tower vertically, everyone else seems to be able to. The good folk of Pisa, however, couldn’t quite manage. They noticed that something wasn’t quite right even by the second storey of the job but carried on regardless of the slant. After a couple of pauses for a spot of warring, the Tower of Pisa was complete in 1372, albeit with a noticeable lean. Throughout time, the lean became more dramatic but the tower also pulled in a lot of tourism to the town and before you could fix it the ‘field of miracles’ was plagued by tourists high fiving thin air in search of a glorious, tower- propping photo.

              Bani and I waded into that scene staring up at the famous tower and then around the base at the crowds of slightly adjusting posers looking like they got lost whilst directing traffic. The sea of photographers and their subjects is an attraction in itself as they freeze in search of the perfect photo, each with a minuscule movement to perfect the angle only for a tour group to ruin it as they march through the middle of the shot. The backdrop of those photos is worthy of its fame. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is as fascinating as it is iconic. Despite efforts to straighten it up either side of the millennium it still rises in a peculiar way that you can’t help but admire, it really mixes it up regarding how towers can stand. It is not just the tower that resides in the square, the cathedral, baptistry and the monumental cemetery complete the busy Field of Miracles and each building is worthy of its own fame. Everyone knows about the archetypal tower and the surrounding buildings, but for me it was the rest of Pisa that I loved.

              Once escaping from the hectic hoards with their slap-happy modelling hands we were immersed in narrow old town streets lined with colourful medieval buildings that oozed the smell of pizza. The piazzas of the old town offered a cool escape from the busy main square and a look at Pisa besides the big tower. Along the River Arno, cafes and restaurants spilled out onto the roads overlooking the river and the hustle and bustle of lunchtime was local and authentic rather than just posing for photos.

              At night the town was even more enjoyable. The lit up tower was illuminated over the city, keeping a watchful eye over proceedings as it has done for seven centuries. Under its gaze the congregations still searched for their perfect photo at its feet. It was these unsuspecting tourists that fell victim to the drunken humour of Bani. Sensing that they needed a hand propping up the leaning tower he was on hand to leap into action, and into shot, to help them support the icon. With slurred encouragement he urged his partner to stay strong and keep the tower up, before running away to another person in need. Without his help that night, that tower may not be standing now. After his heroics he deserved some food and it was at an invitingly smelling pizzeria that he performed his next stunt. After he’d been getting on so well with the locals after saving their tower he felt comfortable enough to dive behind the counter and help prepare his own pizza. The owner did not share this insight and it wasn’t long before he was escorted back around the till, and out the door. The pizza, in his defence, was delicious.

              Next door, the bar was more than grateful for his heroics and was happy for him to help out behind the bar. After his delicious pizza he carried on and set about concocting a range of colourful shots and cocktails for us to enjoy. His creative and alcoholic juices flowed until the early hours and the closing of the bar, and then it was time to head back to the campsite. He bid a fond farewell to the bar lady, took a step out of the bar, then another one, and then his legs stopped working.

              Pisa is so much more than just a tower. The square it leans over is home to other wonders and the town is full of more. Its vibrant maze of ancient streets, delectable food and welcoming nightlife is reason enough to visit. Photobombing is just a bonus.

Image by Rudi Maes from Pixabay

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One thought

  1. Been following this series throughout, I did not expect to see Pisa in the top 10! What time of year did you go out of curiosity? I was only there for one night but found it to be really quiet when I went.


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